Opportunity in the Midst of Crisis

Serving Those Most in Need During the Pandemic

Today, we find ourselves facing an unprecedented health and financial crisis. But as Pope Francis reminded us: In the midst of a crisis there is also opportunity.

The well-being of the Catholic Church in the United States impacts the well-being of every community in our country, particularly those living on the margins of our society. Leadership

Roundtable serves as a resource for the dioceses, religious communities, and Catholic organizations who partner with us, but it is those our Church serves who are impacted most by the work we do.


Responding Quickly to the Pandemic

In February 2020, we convened more than 260 Catholic leaders in Washington, D.C. for the Catholic Partnership Summit. Leaders from across the United States and Rome gathered to listen to and learn from one another, and collectively recommend best practices to help the Church move towards a culture of co-responsible leadership.

From these dialogues emerged numerous themes, (read the full executive summary starting on page 12 of this report), including an understanding that to address any crisis, co-responsibility, transparency, and accountability are needed. Together we also recognized that:

  • there is a need for Church leaders to engage the diverse gifts and expertise of both the laity and ordained
  • philanthropic commitment and faithful stewardship are required to address current disparities
  • young adults need to have a seat at the leadership table and be part of decision making
  • Church leadership must reflect the diversity of Catholics
  • the Church needs to restore trust through servant leadership.


Covid-19 Leadership Summits

Building upon the momentum of our in-person Summit, we quickly convened two virtual roundtables of top Catholic leaders to address the pandemic. Around the virtual table we brought together an historic summit that included the leadership from:

  • U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
  • Catholic Relief Services
  • Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University
  • Catholic Health Association
  • Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities
  • FADICA (Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities)
  • Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference
  • Catholic Charities USA
  • National Catholic Education Association
  • the Papal Nuncio
  • Leadership Roundtable
  • Catholic Extension
  • Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR)

For the first time ever, this group of leaders — representing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Catholic education, social services, and healthcare — convened in solidarity to share their unique perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic, and to collaborate for solutions to emerging needs.


Sharing the Good News

The discussion at these virtual summits highlighted the innovative ways Catholic leaders have responded to the pandemic.

Together, we recognized the need to coordinate communications efforts to share the good news of the Church’s immediate response to the pandemic. The hashtag #CatholicCares was launched along with a social media campaign that highlighted inspiring daily acts of compassion, care, mercy, and service by our Church’s ministries and apostolates.

#CatholicCares has been shared countless times since its inception this spring and woven a narrative of our faith response to the pandemic with stories such as:

  • Neil Klingensmith, a computer science associate professor at Loyola University in Chicago, who used his school’s lab equipment to manufacture face shields for healthcare workers.
  • Sr. Libby Fernandez, who creatively ensured that her order’s cycle-based ministry, Mercy Pedalers, could continue to distribute food at a safe distance to those experiencing homelessness in Sacramento, Cal.
  • Sr. Astridah Banda, a Catholic nun and social worker in Zambia, who transformed her radio show to provide information about COVID-19 and answer listener questions.


Raising Critical Funding

During the two COVID-19 Leadership Summits, Catholic leaders highlighted how the pandemic stymied traditional ways of giving to the Church and created an immediate need for parishes and ministries to accept contributions online.

Together, we were able to identify an avenue for fundraising that would enable our Church to both immediately raise funds online and continue to serve the growing number of people in need.

We leveraged the success and capability of the online giving platform, #iGiveCatholic, to help Catholic organizations across the country raise critical funding early in the pandemic. #iGiveCatholic is an online platform that accepts donations from supporters and distributes those funds directly to participating Catholic organizations. By registering as a participating organization with #iGiveCatholic, parishes, ministries, schools and foundations were able to rapidly receive online donations from supporters during the pandemic.


Moving forward

As we collectively weather the COVID-19 pandemic, Leadership Roundtable remains a responsive partner to Catholic leaders. We have moved our services and programs online, are planning meaningful virtual convenings, and are continuing to help the Catholic Church serve those in most need. Whether providing food to those who are hungry, shelter to those without a home, or healthcare to those facing illness, Catholics have come together as the body of Christ to respond to the pandemic ethically, with courage, and a renewed spirit.


This piece was originally published in Leadership Roundtable’s 2020 Annual Impact Report.

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